The United States is unlikely to be represented at this year’s World Endurance Championships should it go ahead in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) president Michael Campbell, writing to the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) on behalf of its membership and board of directors, said it wanted the world championships to be removed from the UAE to a “more suitable location”.
Campbell said the AERC was of the view that, should the FEI resist moving the venue from Dubai, the US Equestrian Federation should forego plans to send an endurance team to the championships.
The AERC stance was in response to footage from the UAE showing the final stages of a junior and young riders’ race at Al Wathba, in which 55 horses participated.
Five riders in the event were ultimately disqualified for beating their mounts. The footage showed a chaotic procession of support crew running on to the course to use slosh bottles on the horses, some of whom were clearly tiring.
Campbell described the mistreatment of horses in the January 30 race as appalling.
“Evidence of this equine abuse has been widely circulated on social media around the world,” he said.
He said the suspension imposed on the UAE by the FEI last year had not made a lasting impression on most of the venues in the UAE, he noted, with the exception of Dr Sheik Sultan’s facility in Bouthieb.
Bouthieb applies local “house” rules which have successfully safeguarded the welfare of horses by limiting speeds and primarily rewarding the condition of the horses.
“As the endurance affiliate in the US, AERC requests that the USEF register strenuous objections with the FEI regarding the overriding and equine abuse that continues in the UAE,” he said.
“This continued abuse is a blight on the sport of endurance riding throughout the world.”
He said the desert-style racing of the UAE was not endurance riding as most other countries defined it.
“I know that endurance communities in many other countries are expressing the same feelings to their national governing bodies.”
He said the AERC wanted stricter sanctions to be imposed on the UAE “to drive home the lesson that mistreatment of horses in endurance rides is intolerable to the United States and the rest of the endurance world”.
He argued that, at this point, a one-year suspension would be reasonable.